History of City of Newbern

The portion of Tennessee laying west of the Tennessee River was not opened for settlement until long after Tennessee became a flourishing and wealthy state. As far as there is any authentic record, the lands in this section were owned by the Chickasaw Indian tribe. Various treaties were made with the Chickasaws with hopes of obtaining their territory for settlement. Much of the land was covered by grants from North Carolina but as yet none of it had been settled by white people.

The final treaty by which the Indians relinquished all of West Tennessee was signed on October 19, 1818, by Isaac Shelby and Andrew Jackson on behalf of President James Monroe, and by the chiefs on behalf of the Chickasaws.

In 1823 the General Assembly of Tennessee passed an act to establish two new counties west of the Tennessee River, Dyer County being one of them.

A large part of this section was given in grants by the State of North Carolina and some by the State of Tennessee, usually for services rendered to the state or county.

A map of original grants shows that Newbern is located on land originally owned by J. W. Clark in the northern part of he 5000 acre grant. As early as 1839 settlers began to clear forests and build homes on a ridge half way between the Obion and Forked Deer Rivers. In 1850 Mr. Owen Philyou of New Bern, North Carolina staked a claim and built a log house in the area where Newbern now stands. In the fall of 1851, Thomas McSpaddin and his brother erected a business home on the south side of Main Street, what is today the public square. It was occupied by the family and used as a dry goods and grocery store.

In the spring of 1852, C. E. White of Trenton, Tennessee bought Mr. McSpaddin's house and stock of goods and moved to Newbern. Roads were being built in all the surrounding areas making the inland more accessible for trade and settlement and a ferry was built across the Forked Deer River at Dyersburg.

By 1853 there were two dry goods stores, one blacksmith shop, one saddle shop and one cabinet maker. The village of Newbern was small and depended greatly on the families in the immediate area for financial, spiritual and educational growth.

There are conflicting stories of how the town got its name but the most widely accepted is that Mr. Philyou came to this area by ox cart from New Bern, North Carolina and bought 8 hundred acres of land. Shortly before his death Philyou divided his property among his seven children. It was his preference that each child receive exactly 100 acres of land, therefore, 100 acres were left. To avoid any dispute as to its division, he told a group of his neighbors that they could have the extra 100 acres for the purpose of building a town. The neighbors gratefully accepted the offer and insisted that the new town be named for Philyou. He declined and suggested instead that the town be named for his home town of New Bern. The way the name Newbern differs in word arrangement from New Bern was probably the result of poor education among the early settlers.

Today, Newbern has approximately 3000 residents who call this peaceful, small town home. Located only 9 miles from Dyersburg, many people enjoy the short ride to work in the city. But many don't have even that far to go. Newbern is home to 10 manufacturing companies employing approximately 2000 people.

Every September the residents of Newbern and the surrounding areas get together to celebrate Depot Days. This week long annual event is centered around the Historic Newbern Depot located in the heart of downtown Newbern and offers a wide variety of activities.

The Newbern Depot was constructed in 1920 to replace the original building which burned in 1918 and serves Newbern and Dyer County as a railroad museum, dinner theater, an arts activity center as well as a working train station for Amtrak. Purchased by the city in 1990 it has been lovingly restored to its original form through private and corporate donations. The Newbern Depot is open to visitors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Oakview Recreational Center has something to offer just about everyone. The center boasts a riding arena, 9 hole golf course, lighted walking track, large playgrounds, ball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pool and an outdoor pavilion that seats 250. Oakview is widely used year around for numerous family activities such as picnics and reunions not to mention countless ball games throughout the spring and summer. It offers a safe place for jogging, walking or just enjoying the day with friends and family.

The Tennessee Technology Center at Newbern is a source of great pride for the people of Newbern and all of Dyer County. The center is a post-secondary and adult institution which provides programs to serve the training needs of a wide area by providing technical instruction and skill training in trade, technical and other occupations. It provides skilled trained employees to the local businesses and industries in areas specified by the employers themselves. The programs are designed to not only prepare people for employment but to upgrade skills of those already in the workforce. The center is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Content provided by

The Dyersburg/Dyer County
Chamber of Commerce
2000 Commerce Avenue
PO Box 747
Dyersburg, TN 38025-0747